Starring Jennifer Lopez, Vanessa Hudgens, Milo Ventimiglia, Leah Remini, Treat Williams
No, this isn’t a sequel to “Maid in Manhattan,” you know, the other Jennifer Lopez movie where she is a poor working class New Yorker who finds herself in a lie that allows her to live among the wealthy elite until the truth comes out. No, “Second Act” is very different. It’s a movie about a poor working class New Yorker who finds herself in a lie that allows her to live among the corporate elite until the truth comes out. It’s the feel-good rags-to-riches, Cinderella story of the season in which Jennifer Lopez “phones in” a movie performance between her music mogul, fashion designer, and television star obligations. Full of diversity, with a go-get-em’ attitude, determined to stay away from being just another romantic comedy, “Second Act” feels more like the sixth or seventh act of Lopez movie career that has been stuck on rinse and repeat for years.
Maya (Lopez) has worked for the local Value Smart store for years. She is the smartest, hardest working, most savvy employee who deserves the manager position that just opened up. But, Maya didn’t go to college and has no degree, so she’s passed up for the white guy. “I wished we lived in a world where street smarts equaled books smarts.” She quits, and while looking for something new is surprised when she gets a call from one of the leading product manufacturers on Madison Avenue. She’s even more surprised when they offer her a high paying job based on a resume that she doesn’t have. She runs with it, knowing that she is good enough, despite the error and finds herself lying at every turn to maintain this new life and career that’s just been handed to her. She quickly learns that success without honesty isn’t something she can live with.
It feels like a film that’s been edited based on test audience reactions, not artistic integrity.
While Lopez has never been very funny, she often does surround herself with comedians to offset that problem. Leah Remini does that here, landing what few jokes you are likely to chuckle at. “Second Act” does take an unexpected turn midway through the story, unexpected because it comes from out of the blue. The odds of this plot twist actually happening are preposterous, but the script latches on it in a desperate attempt to wave the “here’s something different” flag that just doesn’t satisfy. Lopez and the younger Ventimiglia represent the star’s personal choices in younger men and it’s nice to see that element thrown in here, again in an effort to be an atypical movie. However, their lack of chemistry ruins the concept.
“Second Act’s” biggest problem, it’s predictability predictable. It struggles from beginning to end to adhere to anything original. It feels like a film that’s been edited based on test audience reactions, not artistic integrity. While it scores points for its diverse cast and a novel attempt to direct the sexism toward males for a change, it loses points by having the women at the office compete against each other. The rise and fall of the story is too obvious and the everything-turns-out right-in-the-end conclusion will cause enough eye-rolls to induce a migraine. It’s ironic that Lopez always plays these “every-woman” characters when she couldn’t be farther from that. It’s impossible to suspend reality, even for two hours, and imagine her in this scenario.
Uses every rags-to-riches genre cliché known to woman and still plays them as if we can’t anticipate every single scene.